To Sweat, Fashionably

I have two drawers full of workout clothes. Not because I like workout clothes, but because I work out so much. I don’t have much trouble with pants, thankfully. I buy knee-length pants that are not too tight and not too loose, and they get the job done, whether I’m walking, doing yoga, or sweating my way through a DVD. Tops, on the other hand, are a problem.

I’ve tried just about every style of workout top you can imagine. What I’d like to wear is something sleeveless, preferably with small straps. I’d like something that’s pretty close fitting up top, but then loose around the waist and hips. And it definitely needs to be long enough to cover my tummy, hips, and butt, or I feel very self-conscious.

Now, you’re probably hoping I’m going to follow this up with a link to the perfect workout top. Alas, no. I haven’t found it yet. Here’s what I have found. This is the kind of thing you can expect when you search for “plus-size workout clothes”:

Big, shapeless shirts, for the most part. These would not be comfortable for me to work out in, as they’d be billowing all over and probably come up to my chin when I’m in downward dog. I did find this at Old Navy a few months ago:


Looks like it has good potential, right? I ordered it in a cute peachy color. The top part is great, and it has the tiny straps I always want in a workout shirt. But the bottom balloons out so much, it’s like I’m wearing a giant… well, balloon.

Now let’s look at what you get when you search for “workout clothes,” without the word plus-size:

Super cute, right? I love the red one on the left. It’s from Athleta. They go up to a size XL, but I’ve ordered a top from them before and it was skin tight. I actually wrote to their customer service department and asked them to provide clothing in larger sizes. This was part of their response:

Please know, many of our great items come in Plus sizing. Since you are a 14, you should wear our size Large or Extra Large, but for a more comfy fit, try one of our size 1X items. 

Since an XL was tight (which I told her), there is no way I would ever fit comfortably in a L from this store. I doubt even a 1X would work.

The top in the middle is from Lululemon. Their clothes are expensive, but really cute. Too bad the biggest size they offer is a Large. Yep, if you’re a fat woman looking for cute yoga and workout clothes, don’t look to Lululemon. You have to be slim to wear their stylish togs.

Here’s the thing: A lot of the time, it’s hard for fat people to get up the nerve to work out (sometimes even in the privacy of their own homes). Couple that with unattractive, unflattering, and poorly sized workout clothing, and you’ve got a recipe for “I’d rather not, thanks.” You’d think that athletic clothing manufacturers would realize the amazing potential in the fat market, but instead they seem content to market to the slimmer active people among us (the same is true for a lot of gyms).

It’s too bad, really. I’d look super cute walking six miles this weekend in that red tank.